Here is a quick preview of Big East media days this month.
Dates: July 30-31
Location: Newport, R.I.
What to expect:
1. State of the Big East: I can all but guarantee interim commissioner Joe Bailey is going to put on the hard sell about the merits of the Big East, especially with its incoming members. He has to, considering this is probably the only time all year there will be national media members in attendance to hear what he has to say, and to hear what the league's players and coaches have to say. My biggest hope is that he does a better job than he has in recent interviews. The Big East has to really come out swinging, particularly with TV negotiations to begin in September.
2. Last year of current Big East: I can also guarantee Pitt and Syracuse are going to be fielding questions about whether this is their last year in the league, and how that makes them feel. Are they concerned about that? Do they think they will be bigger targets because they are departing? Neither team had representatives at the recent spring meetings, so you have to think both are going to be in an awkward spot in Newport, with one foot in the door and another foot out.
3. Playoff: The hottest topic of the offseason is sure to be addressed by every coach at media days, along with Bailey and even senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli. The league has done its best to spin the playoff as a positive in all directions. I think it is a positive that there is a four-team playoff, but I also think it's a negative the Big East is losing its guaranteed spot in a major bowl.
4. Divisional alignment: The league is expected to vote on and announce its division alignment starting with the 2013 season, when six new members come into the league (Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU, UCF). The three models under consideration are North-South, East-West or non-geographic.
5. TV questions: You can bet representatives from all the TV networks interested in bidding on the Big East are going to be there, the way they were a year ago. Only now, there is a much bigger sense of urgency because of questions about the future of the league and whether it can match the deal it turned down from ESPN last year.
6. Ray Graham: I am actually surprised to see Pitt is bringing Graham, because he is going to be bombarded with questions about his knee. I have to think Pitt is extremely confident in what he has done during the rehab process to bring him along. In every interview I have done with Graham, he has been a class act, so I am sure Pitt believes he will handle himself appropriately when all the queries come his way.
7. Louisville: Even though Bridgewater won't be there, coach Charlie Strong is sure to field plenty of questions about his starting quarterback. Bridgewater has made the leap into the national spotlight with his name being on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best player in college football. Strong is sure to be asked how Bridgewater avoids the clichéd "sophomore slump" and how his young team deals with increasing expectations.
8. Favorites? Along those lines, the Big East appears to be wide open once again, so coaches are going to be asked about the competitive nature of the league. You can also bet that USF coach Skip Holtz is going to be fielding questions about how his team breaks the mold and lives up to expectations.